In the wild and wet hot history of television, there have been a select number of shows that have challenged the norm by going against tradition. From no longer relying on laugh tracks to groundbreaking hot button issues, these nontraditional shows changed the course of TV, in format, character and story design. We just cannot stop bingeing.

“The Office”
Claim to Fame: American mockumentary without studio laughter.

Of course prefaced by the better BBC mockumentary (or was the American version better?), Steve Carell’s “Office” was huge for paving the path of America’s small-screen shows in the removal of the so-relied-upon laugh track. In addition, the show featured the characters in a mockumentary style of isolated interviews in a separate room, which served as extra commentary and comedic delivery. Also, it somehow made Creed creepier.

“Breaking Bad”
Claim to Fame: Transform the main character from hero to villain.

Of all the TV shows with characters who drastically change, “Breaking Bad'” was one of the first to polarize us with the transformation of any main character into the villain of the story. Walter White, a seemingly incapable pushover, working two jobs (neither of which he was respected in) and failing to support his family became the money-thirsty drug lord who used cancer as a crutch to run his meth flag up the pole, all the while under his DEA agent brother-in-law’s nose.

“Better Call Saul”
Claim to Fame: Spinoff with potential to outdo its origin.

Not since Frasier’s meek number have we seen a follow-up show hit right on the money, possibly more on the money than the early seasons of its origin story, “Breaking Bad.” While Vince Gilligan delivered one of the best TV dramas the first time around, he’s got a good feel for his characters with “Better Call Saul,” and he’s teasing us with “Breaking Bad” gems to up the ante on his comeback prequel. While most aren’t nearly as indulged as they were with Walter White’s story, Saul Goodman is slowly reeling us in after only two seasons.

“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”
Claim to Fame: Low-budget cult buddy show.

If you look back to the first few seasons of “Sunny,” you’ll get a dose of what feels like a home video, but after three or four seasons, the cult comedy started getting its due, and with the improvement of televisions and camera resolutions, what once was a low-budget look to a buddy comedy is now one of the longest currently running comedies in American television.

“Horace & Pete”
Claim to Fame: Internet show with zero marketing.

Delivered more like a 10-act play, Louis C.K. dumped his bank account into his quietly sold new project, “Horace & Pete.” With a star-studded cast of top-shelf actors, including Alan Alda, Edie Falco, Steve Buscemi and Louis himself, the show is gaining traction, but not from any help with marketing. The show, a “tragedy rather than comedy,” was sent out via email from Louis himself, offering people episodes at different prices, not engaging in the usual promotional warfare. A dark comedy, shot well and written better, people might be thrown off that not every line in the show is a joke, but then again, Louis seems to think the cast and writing speak for themselves, enough to barely plug it.

“True Detective”
Claim to Fame: TV miniseries with revolving film actors.

HBO has had a number of groundbreaking hits from the classic “Sopranos” to their newer “The Leftovers.” However, “True Detective” dared explore another route with the premium service as a miniseries with revolving film actors. These are your typical cop stories, as “True Detective” shares a kinship with literary existentialism and near-ancient, late 1800s crime neo-noirs, thanks to its writer, Nic Pizzolatto. What started with an unprecedented debut season with Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson led to a less-appreciated though still carefully crafted follow-up with more film actors, including Colin Farrell, Vince Vaughn and Rachel McAdams.

“Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee”
Claim to Fame: Niche internet series only a genius could pull off.

It may have the largest number of cozy TV coffee shops, given that it changes each episode, but a series itself about a guy who likes cars and coffee and talking would never have been possible if it weren’t for Jerry Seinfeld. His decades-long career as a standup comedian, along with co-creating the greatest sitcom in history, led him to roll the dice and peel some rubber, combining his interests with a revolving car door of comedian guests, both young and old.

“The Affair”
Claim to Fame: A multi-perspective story within each episode.

There’s nothing fascinating about a multi-angle show or a flashback scene, but a show that tells the same story from multiple interlacing perspectives within the same episode, the details of which vary depending on the perspective, is revolutionary and captivating in a way we’ve never felt before. Showtime started us off with two perspectives for the first season to whet our whistles, but season two gave us twice the excitement, bouncing back and forth from episode to episode. Should be interesting to see what they have in store for the third season this November.

“Beverly Hills 90210”
Claim to Fame: Teen drama tackles major adolescent issues & paves way for hundreds others.

Laugh all you want, but the original “90210” had it all: hot ’90s babes, hunky dudes, fancy homes, fancier cars, sex, drugs, death and drama all beautifully rolled into one nostalgic package. The series itself spawned a reboot and a number of similar shows, none of which seem to last as long or jump-start as many careers.

“Curb Your Enthusiasm”
10 Nontraditional Shows That Changed the Course of TV
Claim to Fame: Premium network improv show with real comedians on no time constraint.

Not only is “Curb” an almost entirely improv-shot show, they make it whenever the big guy, L.D., is in the mood. With eight seasons in the bucket, including a redo spoof on the “Seinfeld” finale, Larry David recently announced his plans to return for a ninth season, which will likely be overflowing with his genuine rage for the general public in the most honestly appealing way imaginable.
And if you don’t believe us, maybe it’s time you checked out our Larry David Guide to Being a Decent, Sensible Human Being. It’s “prettay, prettaaaay, pritty good!”


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